Sarah Jessica Parker’s ethnicity has been a source of curiosity and discussion over the years. As a globally recognized actress known for roles like Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City, her cultural background is of interest to many fans. So what exactly is Sarah Jessica Parker’s ethnicity?
Sarah Jessica Parker’s Ancestry
To understand Sarah Jessica Parker’s ethnicity, we need to examine her ancestry. She was born in Nelsonville, Ohio to Stephen Parker and Barbara Parker in 1965. Her father Stephen had English, German, and Dutch ancestry. Her mother Barbara was Jewish and had ancestors from Russia, Hungary, and Poland.
This mixed European ancestry contributes to Sarah Jessica Parker often being described as having an “all-American” look. However, her Jewish heritage is a very important part of her ethnic identity. Sarah Jessica Parker has described her mother’s family as Jewish immigrants to America from Eastern Europe.
Ashkenazi Jewish Ancestry
The ethnic background of Sarah Jessica Parker’s maternal ancestors is Ashkenazi Jewish. The Ashkenazim are a Jewish ethnic group who primarily lived in Central and Eastern Europe before migrating elsewhere around the world in more recent centuries.
By the 10th century, the Ashkenazi Jewish community was firmly established in Northern France and Germany. Over the next few hundred years, their numbers grew in Western and Central Europe. However, systemic antisemitism led to many horrific events that pushed Ashkenazim out of Europe and toward other parts of the world.
Sarah Jessica Parker’s Ashkenazi Jewish ancestors likely migrated from Eastern Europe to escape pogroms and other forms of persecution. This pattern of migration brought many Ashkenazi Jews to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Ashkenazi Jews as an Ethno-Religious Group
Ashkenazi Jews like Sarah Jessica Parker’s ancestors are considered an ethno-religious group. This means they share both a common ethnic heritage and Jewish religious tradition. Their ancestry connects them as an ethnic group, while their observance of Judaism ties them together religiously.
Some key facts about Ashkenazi Jews:
- They composed around 92% of the American Jewish population in the 1950s.
- Their traditional language was Yiddish, a High German language with Hebrew and Slavic elements.
- At their peak before World War II, Ashkenazi Jews numbered around 11-12 million.
- Most American Jews today, including Sarah Jessica Parker, have at least some Ashkenazi ancestry.
So in summary, Sarah Jessica Parker’s ethnic background on her mother’s side is Ashkenazi Jewish with roots in Eastern Europe. This gives her a mixed European and Jewish/Ashkenazi Jewish ethnicity overall.
Sarah Jessica Parker’s Jewish Identity
Sarah Jessica Parker was not raised in a strictly religious Jewish home. However, she has always felt a strong connection to her Jewish heritage. She has said that she identifies ethnically as Jewish and remembers embracing this as a child:
“I always just considered myself a Jew…My mom’s family is Jewish, and I’ve always identified with it.”
Parker’s two oldest children, son James and twin daughters Tabitha and Marion, had bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies to mark their coming of age in the Jewish tradition. So Sarah Jessica Parker is helping pass down Ashkenazi Jewish heritage to the next generation, even if she does not practice orthodox Judaism herself.
Culturally, Sarah Jessica Parker has explored her Ashkenazi roots through charity work with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization. She also filmed a genealogy documentary called Finding Your Roots where she learned more details about her family’s journey from Eastern Europe to America.
In interviews over the years, Parker has talked about feeling a connection to her Jewish immigrant ancestors. She takes pride in carrying on this heritage as an American Jew.
Sarah Jessica Parker’s Career and Jewish Stereotypes
As she established herself as a leading lady in Hollywood, Sarah Jessica Parker did have some concerns about anti-Semitism affecting her career. She has commented:
“When I first started acting, I was told to change my last name because they said it was too Jewish…And I always refused.”
However, she ultimately never felt being “too Jewish” held her back. If anything, there are times Parker felt she broke Jewish stereotypes with her star image and glamorous media persona.
Some key points:
- She received some criticism in the Jewish community early on for taking roles like the provocative character of Lulu in the Broadway musical Footloose.
- As Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City, her high fashion looks did not fit the stereotype of dowdy, desexualized Jewish American women.
- Her tall, slender figure with angular features defied stereotypes about Jewish women being short and curvy.
But Sarah Jessica Parker has argued that dismantling such stereotypes can be positive. She told NPR in 1999:
“I know this sounds terribly politically incorrect, but I never read Jewish women represented – ever, growing up – in instances of glamour, sexuality even, and I took great umbrage at that because I think Jewish women are just as entitled to a healthy sexual life.”
So while fully embracing her Jewish ethnicity, Sarah Jessica Parker felt she also expanded the role of Jewish women in American pop culture. She gave a new generation an example of being proudly ethnically Jewish while also being fashionable, beautiful and sexual.
Sarah Jessica Parker’s Jewish Ethnicity on Sex and the City
As an actress, Sarah Jessica Parker did occasionally play Jewish characters that leaned into recognizable cultural traits. For example, she portrayed a stereotypical Jewish American Princess in the 1996 comedy If Lucy Fell.
However, her most famous role as Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City did not emphasize Jewish identity. Behind the scenes, Parker was able to use her knowledge of Yiddish to better shape Carrie’s New York dialog. But overt Jewish ethnicity was not a major factor in shaping the iconic Sex and the City character.
Show creator Darren Star, who is Jewish, has said Carrie’s lack of strong ethnic identification made her more universally relatable to a wide audience. As Star told the New York Times:
“The character was single, sexually active, with wonderful friends…It transcended ethnicity, community, religion.”
So while Sarah Jessica Parker brought elements of her own personality and Jewishness to Carrie, the character remained more ethnically neutral. This allowed the show to reach a hugely diverse viewership.
Still, Parker noted Carrie did have certain stereotypically Jewish traits, like self-deprecating humor, neurotic worry, therapy use, and an obsession with food. But these were blended into the show’s vision of New York City life.
Sarah Jessica Parker and Antisemitism
As an Ashkenazi Jewish American, Sarah Jessica Parker is aware of how antisemitism has shaped her family history and ethnic identity. She has been open about personally experiencing some antisemitic attitudes.
For example, she has shared anecdotes like a friend’s mother prohibiting them from spending time together due to her being Jewish. Parker has also indicated she takes antisemitism and threats against Jewish people very seriously.
In 2016, when a neo-Nazi website threatened her with antisemitic comments, she took legal action. After the website’s founder was revealed, Parker noted:
“I’m no longer going to passively ignore the danger. We have to be vigilant, we have to continue to so no to those who spread fear and hatred.”
Sarah Jessica Parker has also been active in a range of Jewish philanthropic efforts over the years. Among other causes, she has supported the Simon Wiesenthal Center and their work fighting antisemitism. She also filmed an advertisement speaking out against antisemitic rhetoric in the lead up to the 2020 election.
So while not an orthodox or vocal Jew, Sarah Jessica Parker does show pride in her Ashkenazi Jewish roots. She has tried to balance celebrating that ethnic identity with condemning stereotypes and antisemitism when she encounters them.
Sarah Jessica Parker has an ethnically mixed European background, with Ashkenazi Jewish heritage from her mother’s side being a key part of her identity. This link to Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe has shaped her over the course of her career and life.
While never playing up overt Jewish stereotypes, she has embraced her ethnic roots. She has passed down some Jewish traditions to her children and felt a connection to immigrants that came before her. Sarah Jessica Parker acknowledges that her Ashkenazi Jewish ethnicity makes her sensitive to the persistence of antisemitism.
So in the end, Sarah Jessica Parker sees both the positive cultural gifts and difficult historical struggles associated with her Jewish ethnicity. She has become a symbol of Jewish American success in the arts while also promoting activism against antisemitism. Though perhaps not a standard representation, Sarah Jessica Parker demonstrates the diversity of ways Jewish ethnicity can be lived out proudly in a more modern, assimilated context.